Watch: James Coley Sugar Bowl Presser

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Watch: James Coley Sugar Bowl Presser

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR COLEY: We came here the day before yesterday and we practiced at our facility, and our guys showed up with a lot of energy, a lot of juice. It’s been really fun coaching this group the last week and a half.

They embrace everything. We got a new coach on the staff, and he’s brought a lot to the table. And they’ve really welcomed him. It’s just been a fun time with this group of kids and the coaches.

But appreciate everything that the Sugar Bowl committee has done for us with regards to accessibility to where we got to go and the practice yesterday was smooth. It was smooth as smooth can be.

Q. You already mentioned Coach [Matt] Luke. We asked a couple of players yesterday, and all they talked about was Coach Luke’s energy. How much energy does he actually bring to practice?

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR COLEY: Man, I thought I had a lot. It’s fun coaching with him. It’s a lot of fun because he really enjoys it. I mean, you can tell it’s his passion. And, of course, he was a head coach and he’s done this for a while. He’s running up and down the field, celebrating with the players. He’s coaching them hard.

He’s always teaching. We can be in a staff room and he’s teaching the staff. So he loves the game. He’s got a great feel for people, and he’s got great knowledge about the offensive line and offense, period. So it’s fun having him around.

Q. Isaiah [Wilson] and Andrew [Thomas] are no longer, guys going to the NFL. How does that affect things on the offensive line? Who starts in their place?

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR COLEY: We have got guys who are working in that rotation. You got Cade Mays. You got Jamaree Salyer. You got [Warren] McClendon, freshman, who’s been practicing really hard. So those guys played great for us this year. But Cade and Jamaree also played in those spots. So we’re excited to see them get their opportunity.

And I’ll tell you what, they’ve really had fun and they’ve really worked really hard these last several practices. It’s fun watching a kid jump into a row, embrace it, work at it, and you start seeing them improve, improve every  I don’t want to say every play. But as every period goes on in practices and the practices flow on, you start seeing them get into their  I say groove again but getting into their niche.

It’s been fun watching those two guys. And Warren has gotten a lot better. He’s taken a lot more reps with good on good.

Yeah, it’s a challenge. I know those guys are going to go out there and play their butts off for Georgia.

Q. Offense has been a big topic of conversation at Georgia this year, some of the issues that have kind of gone on. I want to get your take on how things have went. Talk about some of the problems and how you are going about trying to address them moving forward.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR COLEY: Everybody knows we’ve talked about the play on the outside and the questions on Jake [Fromm]. You know what? I’ve got to do a better job, first and foremost. Starts with me, right? So I’m looking at myself hard and criticizing myself and busting my tail to get that end better.

And then we do have to put some pieces in place for a quarterback in the pass game. We’ve got to put some pieces in place up front for the running backs. So it goes down to players. And that’s the bottom line, right?

How do you get your players better so they can reach their full potential? That’s what we’ve been fighting all season long to get better at, working really hard at bottom line, got to score points. How do you score points with conditions or what you have or the injuries you’re working with.

It’s been tough and ultimately it falls on me. It’s our job to get it better.

Q. After you were promoted to the job, how much were you able to install and run the system you want to run as opposed to continuing [Jim] Chaney’s system and/or running the system that Kirby [Smart] wants to run?

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR COLEY: I don’t really see it as the system that Kirby wants to run or we’re forced to run this certain system. As a staff, we sat down and we said, What gives us the best chance to beat certain teams with the players we have? And that’s the plays we’ve called to put our players in place. We’re still a prostyle offense, and that just gives us the flexibility to do a bunch of things.

And, again, it’s who you have out there and who you’re trying to feature. So what gives you the best chance: Giving the ball to the tailback who’s a really good player or throwing the ball to a young guy who may not be ready for that moment yet? You know what I mean?

I don’t think what I want to do has been held back. What I want to do, I’ve done. It’s been none of that.

Q. I think to count six or seven receivers, I’ve lost count how many guys you have hurt. Kirby [Smart] called it a merry-go-round of receivers. How challenging has been it to devise a scheme around player talent? You said in the fall the scheme would be devised around player talent. When the player talent is constantly changing, how much have you had to change from week to week to scheme around that talent?


OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR COLEY: You call plays. You sit there, we can all get in a room. Everybody in this room, we could put a game on and all figure out what plays would be great against that defense. Who’s going to make those plays, right? Who’s going to run that precise route? Can we have a formation set that’s going to give us the same look that the other team had because they’re respecting certain players?

I think we were very different from last year to this year because of the departure of the receivers we had that are now playing in the NFL. And I think we’re different from, I would say, the first quarter of the South Carolina game till now because of the injuries to a player like Lawrence Cager. And I think that all affects the quarterback sometimes, right?

You’re moving your pieces around to give yourself the best chance to win, to score enough points to win, to score more points than the other opponent. And when you do have injuries for example, the SEC championship game, right? We got two of the three starters are out in the first quarter and you’re ready a little bit low.

Now you got to figure out: What’s the emergency plan from the emergency plan? And you have one set; and you have to deal with the elements of the game, what they’re doing to you and how you’re going to respond with guys that are new at those spots. It’s tough. It’s our job, though. It’s my job.

It is. It’s a difficult will thing to scheme around. But it’s what we do, and it’s what we get paid to do. And we got to do the best we can.

Q. When you look at the body of work of Jake Fromm for this season, what do you attribute to the different production? Is it simply a matter of injuries?

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR COLEY: I believe so. If you look at the stats, everything is around stats, right? And my job and the job of the guys that work with us on offense is to figure out how can we improve a player’s performance. And Jake’s performance, I would say, with Lawrence Cager in the game was something like he was at 71% completion for the season. Lawrence Cager is not in the game, he’s what? It’s a lot lower. Has he regressed, or has his stats regressed, right? I would say stats regressed.

I’m around Jake every day, coached Jake. I was his quarterback coach last year. If anything, he’s sharper because of the multiples that he’s had to deal with, with new guys in the lineup. He’s sharper because of it.

But it gets you at times. It looks like you’re not accurate when a guy is running a bender across the middle of the field and he keeps it vertical and you think he’s bending and the ball ends up being short and you end up going, This guy threw a terrible ball. Or the guy is running a ten-yard stop route and he runs it at 12 and it’s a low throw, right?

But that’s not all the time. It’s just it happens when you get injuries. You get guys in the game that haven’t played in a while or it’s their first chance and they are a little nervous and they take their routes a little deeper than where they should be. It ends up looking like the guy was not playing as good as he was a year ago.

When you’re playing quarterback, you are sitting there, sometimes you’ve got to deal with the guys that are playing around you. You almost have to adjust your game to them.

I think Jake is still the same Jake. I think he’s done a great job with his attitude, how he comes to work every day. He’s not fazed by stats. He’s not fazed by a production in a game that he probably he knows he did all he could do to give us a shot.

Coaching him for two years now, I’m very proud of the kid. I’m watching him in practice this week and last week. Man, you are talking about a person that comes in with a great spirit to complete and to affect others. It’s unbelievable.

Q. What level of participation do you expect from D’Andre Swift in this game? And when he’s not in the game, how do you see the rotation at running back? How does that affect how you call the game?

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR COLEY: Sure. Man, D’Andre Swift, he’s working really hard to get healthy. You guys know he hasn’t been healthy 100%. He’s practicing hard. We’re all supporting him through this because it’s tough. He really in his heart, he’s a part of this team. He’s a leader. He’s one of our leaders.

If he is unable to go, we’ve got a good stable running backs there. James Cook and Zamir White and Kenny McIntosh have all practiced really hard and embraced the role of “I’m the next guy in.”

And those guys are embracing bigger roles than just playing the backfield. As you guys saw in our game at SEC championship game, they played in the slot. We motioned them in from the backfield to the third receiver in a set, to the first receiver in a set. They did a bunch of stuff. So they’ve had to cram in more than just running back at times. They’ve played outside as receivers.

So I’m excited to see those kids play. They’ve worked really hard, and they’re ready for this opportunity.

Q. What do you see from Baylor’s defense? Especially the three-man line that’s produced so many sacks.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR COLEY: Wellcoached group. When you watch them on defense we spent some time analyzing what they do and how they affect other teams. They are well-coached and their kids, they play with a high motor. They know what they’re doing. They have got great skill set. Those three guys up front, they know how to use their hands. They have great getoff.

The biggest thing that you notice from them outside of their talent is they’re always playing hard, always playing hard. Because this is them. Those three guys upfront and they do a great job with scheme to make you feel like they’re giving you all this room but they’re not. They swarm the ball as an entire unit.

Pretty impressive group up front. You can see why they’ve had the success they’ve had in that league, which you great a lot of great offenses in that league.

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Greg is closing in on 11 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.